Initiatives

Birmingham Talks

Every word a child hears literally helps their brain grow. By age 5, a baby’s brain is nearly 90% developed, making these early years crucial for their wellbeing and success. But a “word gap” holds many children back. In our community, many children hear less than half the 21,000 daily words that researchers say that children need to hear, limiting their development and future potential.

Our goal? To close this gap. We provide children with the rich language environment they need to thrive and give every family the chance for a better start.

Birmingham Talks provides families and caregivers with essential tools to enhance communication and conversation, addressing the “word gap” that children face prior to entering kindergarten. We provide a wearable device that counts the words children hear, creating clear, data-driven reports. Based on these weekly reports, caregivers can then celebrate progress and identify areas for improvement. We also pair each caregiver with a trained coach who works with them to review this information and make individualized plans for each child in their care.

During this 10-week program, caregivers participate in weekly, small group classes, centered on enhancing interactive conversations with their children. Families use our talk pedometer to receive insightful, data-driven reports on their child’s daily exposure to language, with personalized 1:1 coaching calls to celebrate achievements and set future goals.

Families in the program also receive engaging, culturally-responsive books and/or educational toys each week. The Start program is open to both English- and Spanish-speaking families, with in-person and virtual options depending on each family’s preferences.

Educators in the program participate in weekly sessions aimed at elevating conversational richness and rigor for the children in their care. Wearable “talk pedometers” capture the number of words children hear throughout the day, yielding comprehensive reports that can drive individualized plans for each child.

We provide financial incentives to qualifying childcare providers to offset any costs they may incur. Teachers who complete the program also receive professional development credit and certification.